Hacking is the stuff of science fiction films and cyber warfare. The stereotypical hacker is out to steal secrets and personal identities—looking for vulnerabilities to be used to their advantage. Hackers for good, on the other hand, tighten security and look for ways to optimize the system. Imagine then if that system is your own physiology.
The field of biohacking has taken off in recent years as a means to augment job or athletic performance. The tools of biohacking can be used by anyone, however. In the process, a keen sense of awareness develops. New insights into illness are discovered and symptoms can improve.
It’s the greatest N = 1 experiment ever performed. You are the guinea pig.
Step 1: Gather Tools
Before collecting data, be sure you have some measuring instruments at your disposal. This could be as simple as a notebook. You also may consider purchasing health monitoring devices such as an electronic blood pressure cuff, blood glucose monitor, urine test strips, or a thermometer. Those who are tech savvy may even utilize quantified self instruments such as the FitBit or similar devices. Smartphone and tablet apps are available that can help you gather information about yourself.
FibroMapp allows you to track symptoms, medications, flares, etc: FibroMapp on GooglePlay
Here's a list of tools for hacking sleep: 5 Best Sleep Tracking Gadgets or Apps
Step 2: Enlist a Research Team
For those who are severely disabled by their condition, collecting data and running experiments may feel out of reach. Enlist the help of a spouse or caregiver that can help you collect data if you are unable. A tech savvy son or daughter may be particularly eager to join in your biohacking pursuits. Having a third party involved can help eliminate subjectivity for a truer assessment.
Step 3: Collect Data
Collect as much data as possible that can be analyzed by you or your doctor. Keep a diary of symptoms, dietary patterns, or document a record of treatment outcomes. Consider advanced testing procedures such as nutrigenomic testing, stool analysis, or other functional tests.
Step 4: Experiment
Armed with large amounts of data, try to pinpoint weak areas that will benefit the most by treatment interventions. For instance, if you find out you have MTHFR genetic polymorphisms (snps) you can then chose supplements that bypass this defect. Or if stool studies shows signs of dysbiosis, you can experiment with a gut healing protocol. Together with your doctor, an individualized plan can be formulated and continually tweaked as more data is collected.
Step 5: Identify Possible Confounders
In research identifying confounding variables is crucial to determine the strength of the studies’ results. Confounders can lead to misinterpreted results. For instance, a study measures the effect of a drug on a health condition. Most of the participants in the study are male. The results suggest that this drug is effective for the desired outcome. Yet, because it did not test many females, gender is a confounding variable.
While analyzing your CFS or Fibro data you may find a treatment makes you worse and abandon it. Are you overlooking confounding factors? External life stress, secondary illness such as a cold, or other external matters may disrupt your experiment and skew your results.
Step 6: Be Patient
Like any experiment, duration is important. A study that measures a treatment given only for a week will be far less valid than one measured over months or years. Give your self-experiment time to work. If it’s a new supplement, a month or more of use may be required before changes occur. If it’s a new diet strategy, as many as 6 months may be required before noticeable changes can be measured. Keep in mind that duration of illness and severity could affect the response to treatment--with those being ill the longest needing more time to assess.
Biohacking played a key role in my CFS recovery and I continue to find new ways to optimize my health to prevent relapse.
Do you have experience with a N=1 experiment? Let us know in the comments!